March 24, 2004

Richard Clarke. Earlier today, I wondered why I still hold out optimism for the findings (or even the process) of the 9/11 Commission. Listening to Richard Clarke this afternoon, now I know why -- and my sliver of hope has grown just a little bit. Clarke was incredibly well-informed, concise and more than willing to criticize both the Bush and Clinton administrations where he felt it was necessary. At one point, Clarke said, "by invading Iraq the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism" and there was dead silence in the room for 10-15 seconds. I actually thought the television transmission had frozen; it was like the proceeding was put on freeze-frame.

Will Clarke's testimony become a turning point in the overall investigation into 9/11? I hope so, but I truly don't know. It depends on how his devastating comments about the Bush administration's inaction regarding the intense warnings and threats over the 8 months before September 11 are taken by the public and the media -- and of course, the media will control how much, and which sections, the public hears. Tonight's newscasts and tomorrow's headlines should tell us a lot. ... Speaking of which, on Monday, Condoleeza Rice appeared live on all five morning shows speaking out against Clarke's book and she is scheduled to be a guest tonight on Fox's Hannity and Combs. Yet she refused to appear publicly (and under oath) before the 9/11 Commission this afternoon. ... It's well past time for a subpoena.

I thought the firestorm of criticism was coming back in May 2002 when it was widely reported that a mere 4 weeks before 9/11 Bush had been warned that Osama bin Laden was planning to hijack American airplanes in a massive terrorist attack. And we know now that the briefing said the attack would come within the US. But nothing happened and the story disappeared.

In his opening statement, Clarke said he welcomed "the hearings because it is finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11. To them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask -- once all the facts are out -- for your understanding and for your forgiveness." ... It was the first such statement by any official appearing before the Commission.

As I type this, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is laughing and chuckling with several members of the Commission. Donald Rumsfeld was doing the same thing yesterday. Why? Is there something funny about 9/11? Why are these men making jokes while they testify about their action or inaction regarding an event that killed almost 3,000 people and has inspired this administration to kill thousands more? Coming so soon after Clarke's apology and blunt testimony, it must be salt in the wounds to the victims families in the room.

Another huge story surfaced today: FBI translator Sibel Edmonds claims she was ordered to retranslate and/or adjust the translations of terrorist intercepts received before September 11, 2001 by the FBI and CIA. In a press conference in Washington after CIA Director George Tenet was questioned by the 9/11 Commission, Edmonds said she was offered a substantial raise and a full-time job in order to not go public with her information.

New York Press: "During a city council meeting last week that dealt, in part, with budget cuts set to affect the DA's office, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau ... let slip that the NYPD plans to arrest up to 1000 street protestors a day during this summer's Republican National Convention. ... Planning security for such an event is one thing, and is to be expected. But to have someone like Morgenthau or Ray Kelly come out and say, essentially, that they intend to arrest 1000 people a day because they don't like the Republican party?"

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